Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Rationals - Discography 1965-2001

"Of all the Michigan talent that flirted with stardom but never got invited to the party, there is probably no other band of the era so beloved and still so mourned as Ann Arbor's The Rationals. Certainly, here was a group that deserved fame and fortune but, incredibly, failed to get the notice and air-play that should have landed them among the best recording acts of all time. They were that good.
Blessed with a sterling vocalist, a brilliant guitarist who could more than hold his own as a singer, an inventive bass player and a propulsive drummer, The Rationals infused their stratified, garage-rock with rich vocalizing and harmonies, making local hit records out of a series of rhythm & blues nuggets such as "Leavin' Here", "Hold on Baby", and Otis Redding's "Respect" (their 45 pre-dating the Vagrants version and providing the inspiration for Aretha's) as well as an incredibly soulful take on Goffin-King's "I Need You" — which may be the finest version of that song ever waxed. The Rationals also had a fierce stage act that was the cornerstone of their fan following around Detroit and environs. One of the highlights of their live performances during the height of their popularity was a stunning soul-song medley built around Tony Clarke's "The Entertainer" that was truly a show-stopper, unleashing every element in their talent arsenal.
As local heroes, they are legend but The Rationals never caught that big break which would have let them cash in and grab the prominence of their contemporaries and friends like Bob Seger (who contributed singing and arranging on some of their singles) and the MC5. By most accounts, it appears that the same management that helped lead them from their early Kinks/Beatles influenced stylings ("Little Girls Cry", "Feelin' Lost") toward the harder rhythm and blues that became their trademark also, probably inadvertently, kept them just shy of the payoff: Instead of freeing the band to work with other producers, their manager Hugh "Jeep" Holland (A-Square Productions) apparently couldn't let go when the recording opportunities came and squandered several chances for the group to land a major label deal.
By the time they did break away from Holland and finally got an album to market via Bob Crewe's small label (with the help of local DJ Robin Seymour who often featured The Rationals on his television show) the group's depth had increased considerably. Their musical vocabulary had become expansive, reaching well beyond the tightly-arranged singles toward a newer sound that built on ever-maturing vocal and instrumental strengths. And, despite a protean effort in extending their reach with superb original compositions like "Guitar Army", the Corell/Morgan vocal tour-de-force "Ha-Ha" and the blazing "Sunset" as well as a cover of "Handbags & Gladrags" that simply destroys Rod Stewart's rendition, the album went nowhere (only for lack of good promotion and distribution) and The Rationals fans began moving on. Without the success of the long-awaited record to finally catapult them into the national spotlight, the band threw in the towel and by mid 1970 they had also gone the way of so many of the area's best groups.
If just barely missing the brass ring was their legacy, it's almost tragic that their recordings are yet to receive a properly produced modern day re-issue. Despite years of efforts by the band members and others interested in seeing this music released again, nothing in the way of an official (from the master tapes) nature has, thus far, materialized although bootleg CD's copped from old vinyl have filled some of the void. Their Cameo/Parkway releases remain captive to the rapacity of Allen Klein (except for "Respect" which did show up on the recent C/P box set) and for many years, their electrifying early work on A² Records created under the direction of Holland was withheld from re-release for reasons known only to Jeep. Holland's death in March 1998 only seems to have clouded the issue even further, compounding the coincidence that continues to deprive the world of the brilliance that was The Rationals".
Source: The Rationals @ Detroit area rock 'n' roll bands/musicians 1966-1972

The Rationals (1970)(35 Mb): MegaUpload / Rapidshare
Unreleased Tracks 1965-1968 (71 Mb): MegaUpload / Rapidshare
Temptation 'Bout to Get Me - Live (1995)(65 Mb): MegaUpload / Rapidshare
Singles (2001)(50 Mb): MegaUpload / Rapidshare

The Rationals - Official Page / Scott Morgan's history of The Rationals / The Rationals @ Wikipedia


Parrymore said...

What a great surprise! I have The Rationals LP and 10" 'Temptation 'bout to get me'. I was looking for more songs of them many time ago. Thank you very much.

Hank said...

I've been dying to hear their album for a loong time! Thank you thank you thank you!!!

TBA said...

Thanks! This is wonderful. I have recently heard that one of the reissue labels (Big Beat?) is finally going to put everything together.

I knew Jeep Holland, and it is sad that he's been getting the blame for their failed career and the sorry state of the catalog. Jeep was a great guy, and was a fan instead of the Don Arden/Allen Klein style of bare knuckle tough guy. He might not have been the best choice for launching a national act, but it wasn't because he was a scumbag. Also, I think the problem with the reissues is way more due to Allen Klein's ownership of the Cameo/Parkway label, who licensed most or all of these missing singles.

aldo said...

When I bought the Rationals LP years ago I didn't really like it...I was looking for something else, I even bought the live 10" (Temptation...) but it was really more of the same...but HEY!
Those early singles you posted here (i heard most of it before) they are BRILLIANT!
AND...The UNRELEASED stuff: I believe tracks 1-10 were their ULTRA-RARE FAN CLUB LP from 1966, not even mentioned in the official rare it is...ANY INFO on that?

Anonymous said...

So are these inclusive of the unreleased fan club LP tracks? Great stuff there. Terrific group overall, very strong.

Anonymous said...

interested to hear the live recording--i had a live tape years ago, from tape-trading days; the original was bleeding through the opposite side, so you'd hear backward segments.

reservatory said...

Thanks for the Rationals singles anthology! Growing up in NW Ohio, the car radio was always on CKLW Detroit, but I've never heard the first single before. By the way, there are two versions of Leavin' Here. This one was on the other side of Respect in '66. The version on the a-side of Not Like It Is from '67 features a far superior, way wilder guitar solo... I think the fuzzed-out version of Sunset on the unreleased CD is the one I heard on an underground FM station around 1968. Hot stuff, even through the acetate crackle!

reservatory said...

Here's Leavin' Here 67: It's my first upload, so let me know how badly I screwed it up. Enjoy!

Jim said...

Thought I saw the live set claimed somewhere as 11/27/68--maybe I'm in error there?--but if that was the case, the dialogue at the end refers to an upcoming live recording of the MC5 and an upcoming Jeff Beck Group weekend. Since both posters and recordings (and photos, etc.) exist of those late Oct./early Nov. shows, I'm thinking this Rationals gig perhaps might have been late October? All this without checking the itinerary or anything. That is, if that segment of talking at the end was from the same show as the music. The MC5 turn up at the end, as you can hear. Not sure if this was the same show I was traded on cassette 15 or 20 years ago, but that one had much poorer audio; not sure if the release was edited from that show or not. I'm wondering if it was different, or at least longer. Morgan in an interview ten years ago verified to me that something like 3 or 4 copies of the fan club LP were ever made. Couldn't get much followup info about it. Would be great if anyone had Rationals-related radio spots or tv clips. Robin Seymour, former host of Swingin' Time (a Canadian TV show from Windsor that the band guested on) just did a rare live appearance locally this weekend. I'm guessing he could have a hoard of great rock and roll video--some of it, brief but really great material, was shown several years back on Detroit TV on an unfortunately relatively short-length (but enjoyable) special.

miles said...

an outstanding post, and a wonderful share! the rationals were a great band in their time, and hearing these recordings today only serves to demonstrate that the music they made was timeless, still holding up today and sounding much better than a lot of other crap that is being made. thanks for sharing this, and for keeping their legacy alive.

mufngruf said...

Just to echo TBA, Jeep wasn't the problem, but rather the solution. After the band "broke away" and got different producers, Scott never sounded as good as he did on the A2 releases, and neither did the band. Perhaps it would be more pertinent to challenge the record companies for wanting to split up a perfectly good working partnership.

D said...

thanks so much for sharing what is such incredibly brilliant music. Such a total travesty that these guy's aren't lauded the world over.

D said...

ps if anyone wants to point me in the direction of where I can buy their stuff on original vinyl I would be very appreciative!